South Africa’s nursing shortage: An unsolvable crisis?

A critical shortage of nurses is on the long list of issues plaguing South Africa. According to Richard Friedland, the CEO of Netcare Ltd., South Africa’s largest private healthcare network, there is an estimated shortage of between 26,000 and 62,000 nurses in the country, coupled with a significant number of health workers expected to retire by 2030. Although most South African hospitals have their own nursing colleges, only designated universities are authorised to issue professional nursing qualifications, which prevents private hospitals, such as Netcare, from training more nurses despite the high demand and the large number of individuals applying to become nurses each year. This article by Bloomberg’s Janice Kew highlights that the nursing shortage is not unique to South Africa as many countries worldwide are grappling with severe workforce shortages, particularly in the healthcare sector, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. – Nadya Swart

South Africa’s Nursing Shortage Becoming Critical, Netcare Says

By Janice Kew

South Africa is facing a critical shortage of nurses as private hospitals are restricted from training more of the caregivers, according to the country’s largest private healthcare network.

Although most South African hospitals have their own nursing colleges, only designated universities can issue professional nursing qualifications. This is despite the fact that the country has an estimated shortage of between 26,000 and 62,000 nurses, as well as a large proportion of health workers due to retire by 2030, Richard Friedland, chief executive officer of Netcare Ltd., said in an interview Monday.

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“The tragedy is we’ve got tens of thousands of people applying to become nurses every year, and in a country that is beset by such a skill shortage, by such rampant unemployment, it’s almost inexplicable that government isn’t opening the doors to allow the private sector to train,” he said.

Netcare has capacity to train more than 3,500 nurses a year, but has only been accredited to take about 10% of that, said Friedland. He said the company is collaborating with the government and other bodies to try and make better use of excess nursing college capacity. 

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“It’s akin to the Eskom crisis,” he said, referring to the crippling power cuts South Africa is facing because Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd., the state-owned company that supplies about 90% of the nation’s electricity, can’t meet demand from its dilapidated plants. “The private sector, through the Hospital Association of South Africa, is galvanised at the moment. We’re exploring all of our options in this regard, and we’re not excluding taking legal action.”

Nursing shortages are not unique to South Africa, and many countries are facing severe shortages of workers post-pandemic. 

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Netcare earlier reported a rise in paid patient days in the six months through March compared with a year earlier and said it expects full-year revenue growth of between 9% and 12%.

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